Mormonism and Wikipedia/Martin Harris

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    An analysis of the Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia: Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)
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The FairMormon Blog responds to these questions

Roger Nicholson,"Wikipedia’s Deconstruction of Martin Harris", FairMormon Blog, (23 January 2013)


Upon reading the Wikipedia article about Martin Harris, we encounter quite a contrast from those things that we learn in church. The first thing that we learn about Martin is that he “was a prosperous farmer,” and that his neighbors “considered him both an honest and superstitious man.” The article then goes on in detail to note that Harris’s “imagination was excitable,” that he “once imagined that a sputtering candle was the work of the devil,” and that he was considered “a visionary fanatic.” The article continues by stating that “his belief in earthly visitations of angels and ghosts gave him the local reputation of being crazy,” and that “he was a great man for seeing spooks.” It is easy to see which aspects of Harris’s life the Wikipedia article attempts to emphasize. There are a few token mentions of honesty and prosperity, followed by extensive recitations of Harris’s superstitious qualities.

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The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Martin Harris (May 18, 1783 – July 10, 1875) underwrote the first printing of The Book of Mormon and also served as one of Three Witnesses who testified that they had seen the Golden Plates from which Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon had been translated.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Early life

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Martin Harris was born in Eastown, New York, the second of the eight children. According to historian Ronald W. Walker, little is known of his youth, "but if his later personality and activity are guides, the boy partook of the sturdy values of his neighborhood which included work, honesty, rudimentary education, and godly fear."

Author's sources: *Walker (1986) , p. 31

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In 1808, Harris married his cousin Lucy Harris.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

We have no reason to believe that this is incorrect, however a source documenting the kinship between Harris and his wife would be good to have.

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Until 1831, Harris lived in Palmyra, New York, where he was a prosperous farmer. Harris's neighbors considered him both an honest and superstitious man.

Author's sources: *More "than a dozen of Harris's Palmyra contemporaries left descriptions of the man that describe his honor, honesty, industry, peacefulness, and respectability, his hard-headed Yankee shrewdness and his wealth." Walker (1986) , p. 35

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Note that the main body of the article states that Martin was "honest and superstitious," while the supporting citation only describes his "honor, honesty, industry, peacefulness, and respectability, his hard-headed Yankee shrewdness and his wealth." Also note that the subsequent paragraphs launch immediately into discussions of Martin's "superstitions," while totally ignoring any examples of his "honesty, industry, peacefulness, and respectability, his hard-headed Yankee shrewdness and his wealth". The Wikipedia article is attempting to portray Martin's superstitions and the most important part of his character, while ignoring everything else.

Question: Is Wikipedia's portrayal of Martin Harris as a gullible, superstitious man accurate?

Martin Harris is portrayed by critics as unstable, gullible and superstitious

One critic of the Church states that Martin Harris "was known by many of his peers as an unstable, gullible, and superstitious man...."

The following quotes are taken from Wikipedia's article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" to support this assertion:

“Once while reading scripture, he reportedly mistook a candle’s sputtering as a sign that the devil desired him to stop. Another time he excitedly awoke from his sleep believing that a creature as large as a dog had been upon his chest, though a nearby associate could find nothing to confirm his fears. Several hostile and perhaps unreliable accounts told of visionary experiences with Satan and Christ, Harris once reporting that Christ had been poised on a roof beam.” – BYU professor Ronald W. Walker, “Martin Harris: Mormonism’s Early Convert,” p.34-35

“No matter where he went, he saw visions and supernatural appearances all around him. He told a gentleman in Palmyra, after one of his excursions to Pennsylvania, while the translation of the Book of Mormon was going on, that on the way he met the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked along by the side of him in the shape of a deer for two or three miles, talking with him as familiarly as one man talks with another.” – John A. Clark letter, August 31, 1840 in Early Mormon Documents, 2: 271

“According to two Ohio newspapers, shortly after Harris arrived in Kirtland he began claiming to have “seen Jesus Christ and that he is the handsomest man he ever did see. He has also seen the Devil, whom he described as a very sleek haired fellow with four feet, and a head like that of a Jack-ass.” – Early Mormon Documents 2: 271, note 32. [1]

The Wikipedia article emphasizes Harris's superstitious qualities and ignores his religious qualities

The Wikipedia article from which these quotes are taken deliberately emphasizes Harris's superstitious qualities while minimizing his work for the community and his religious qualities.

Upon reading the Wikipedia article about Martin Harris, we encounter quite a contrast from those things that we learn in church. The first thing that we learn about Martin is that he “was a prosperous farmer,” and that his neighbors “considered him both an honest and superstitious man.” The article then goes on in detail to note that Harris’s “imagination was excitable,” that he “once imagined that a sputtering candle was the work of the devil,” and that he was considered “a visionary fanatic.” The article continues by stating that “his belief in earthly visitations of angels and ghosts gave him the local reputation of being crazy,” and that “he was a great man for seeing spooks.” It is easy to see which aspects of Harris’s life the Wikipedia article attempts to emphasize. There are a few token mentions of honesty and prosperity, followed by extensive recitations of Harris’s superstitious qualities.[2]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

A biographer wrote that Harris's "imagination was excitable and fecund." For example, Harris once imagined that a sputtering candle was the work of the devil.

Author's sources: *"Once while reading scripture, he reportedly mistook a candle's sputtering as a sign that the devil desired him to stop. Another time he excitedly awoke from his sleep believing that a creature as large as a dog had been upon his chest, though a nearby associate could find nothing to confirm his fears. Several hostile and perhaps unreliable accounts told of visionary experiences with Satan and Christ, Harris once reporting that Christ had been poised on a roof beam." Walker (1986) , pp. 34–35

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: What did Martin Harris's non-Mormon associates say about his character?

Even early anti-Mormons who knew Harris believed that he was “honest,” and “industrious,” “benevolent,” and a “worthy citizen”

Even early anti-Mormons who knew Harris, or knew those acquainted with Harris, believed that he was “honest,” and “industrious,” “benevolent,” and a “worthy citizen.” [3] Wrote the local paper on Harris' departure with the Saints:

Several families, numbering about fifty souls, took up their line of march from this town last week for the “promised land,” among whom was Martin Harris, one of the original believers in the “Book of Mormon.” Mr. Harris was among the early settlers of this town, and has ever borne the character of an honorable and upright man, and an obliging and benevolent neighbor. He had secured to himself by honest industry a respectable fortune—and he has left a large circle of acquaintances and friends to pity his delusion.[4]

Pomeroy Tucker, who knew Harris but didn’t believe in the Book of Mormon, once noted:

How to reconcile the act of Harris in signing his name to such a statement [his Book of Mormon testimony], in view of the character of honesty which had always been conceded to him, could never easily be explained. [5]

Martin Harris's association with a number of LDS "splinter groups"

Some have argued that Harris' tendency to associate with a number of LDS "splinter groups" indicates that he was "unstable and easily influenced by charismatic leaders." [6]

This claim fundamentally distorts Harris' activities during this period. [7] Wrote Matthew Roper:

Martin was excommunicated in December 1837 in Kirtland, Ohio, where he remained for the next thirty-two years. During this time, Harris associated himself with Warren Parrish and other Kirtland dissenters who organized a church. On March 30, 1839, George A. Smith wrote a letter from Kirtland describing some of the divisions in the Parrish party. "Last Sabbath a division arose among the Parrish party about the Book of Mormon; John F. Boynton, Warren Parrish, Luke Johnson and others said it was nonsense. Martin Harris then bore testimony of its truth and said all would be damned if they rejected it." Such actions suggest a significant degree of independence for which Harris is generally not given credit. [8]

Harris managed to frustrate many other religious groups by his continued insistence on preaching the Book of Mormon instead of their tenets. He eventually returned to the Church and died in full fellowship.

The witnesses were men considered honest, responsible, and intelligent. Their contemporaries did not know quite what to make of three such men who testified of angels and gold plates, but they did not impugn the character or reliability of the men who bore that testimony.


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

An acquaintance said that Harris claimed to have seen Jesus in the shape of a deer and walked and talked with him for two or three miles.

Author's sources: John A. Clark letter, August 31, 1840 in EMD, 2: 271: "No matter where he went, he saw visions and supernatural appearances all around him. He told a gentleman in Palmyra, after one of his excursions to Pennsylvania, while the translation of the Book of Mormon was going on, that on the way he met the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked along by the side of him in the shape of a deer for two or three miles, talking with him as familiarly as one man talks with another." According to two Ohio newspapers, shortly after Harris arrived in Kirtland he began claiming to have "seen Jesus Christ and that he is the handsomest man he ever did see. He has also seen the Devil, whom he described as a very sleek haired fellow with four feet, and a head like that of a Jack-ass." Vogel,EMD 2: 271, note 32.

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Note that the letter cited is dated ten years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. This "acquaintance" is describing his perception of Martin Harris well after Martin's claim to have witnessed an angel and the gold plates. Yet, the Wikipedia editor has placed this description in the section on Martin's "Early life," before the section titled "Book of Mormon witness."

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The local Presbyterian minister called him "a visionary fanatic."

Author's sources: *Walker (1986) , p. 34-35

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The Presbyterian minister called Martin a "visionary fanatic" after the publication of the Book of Mormon. This man is describing his perception of Martin Harris well after Martin's claim to have witnessed an angel and the gold plates. Yet, the Wikipedia editor has placed this description in the section on Martin's "Early life," before the section titled "Book of Mormon witness."

Martin Harris: "The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard"

George Godfrey, and Martin Harris's response to him, after Godfrey suggested that Harris had been deceived:

A few hours before his death and when he was so weak and enfeebled that he was unable to recognize me or anyone, and knew not to whom he was speaking, I asked him if he did not feel that there was an element at least, of fraudulence and deception in the things that were written and told of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and he replied as he had always done so many, many times in my hearing the same spirit he always manifested when enjoying health and vigor and said: ‘The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to have perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.[9]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

A friend, who praised Harris as being "universally esteemed as an honest man," also declared that Harris's mind "was overbalanced by 'marvellousness'" and that his belief in earthly visitations of angels and ghosts gave him the local reputation of being crazy.

Author's sources: *Pomroy Tucker Reminiscence, 1858 in Early Mormon Documents 3: 71.

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Pomroy Tucker felt that Martin had been deceived by Joseph Smith. The description of Martin that he gives here was published 28 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. This man is describing his perception of Martin Harris well after Martin's claim to have witnessed an angel and the gold plates. Yet, the Wikipedia editor has placed this description in the section on Martin's "Early life," before the section titled "Book of Mormon witness."

Martin Harris: "As sure as you see my hand so sure did I see the angel and the plates"

Martin Harris said in the presence of 12-year-old William Glenn:

Gentlemen, do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Are your eyes playing a trick or something? No. Well, as sure as you see my hand so sure did I see the angel and the plates.[10]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Another friend said, "Martin was a man that would do just as he agreed with you. But, he was a great man for seeing spooks."

Author's sources: *Lorenzo Saunders Interview, November 12, 1884, Early Mormon Documents 2: 149.

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Lorenzo Saunders felt that Martin had been deceived by Joseph Smith. The description of Martin that he gives here was published 54 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. This man is describing his perception of Martin Harris well after Martin's claim to have witnessed an angel and the gold plates. Yet, the Wikipedia editor has placed this description in the section on Martin's "Early life," before the section titled "Book of Mormon witness."

William Harrison Homer on Martin Harris: "For I saw the angel, I heard his voice. I saw and handled the plates upon which the Book of Mormon was written"

On our asking [Harris] to show us the [Kirtland] temple, he very kindly offered his services. After going through the building from the roof to the basement, during which time he uttered a great many abusive words and sentiments against President Brigham Young. I asked him what he now thought of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. His answer was, 'Young man, do you see that sun shining through that window? Just so sure as that sun shines and gives us light by day, and the moon and stars give us light by night, just so sure I know that the Book of Mormon is true. For I saw the angel, I heard his voice, I saw and handled the plates upon which the Book of Mormon was written; and by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, whom I know by the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, was a true Prophet of God, chosen to open up the last dispensation—or the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things shall be gathered into one.'[11]


Book of Mormon witness

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In 1828, Joseph Smith, Jr., another resident of Palmyra, said he had obtained a record of ancient inhabitants of the Americas engraved on golden plates and that he had been directed by the angel Moroni to translate this work. Harris assisted Smith both financially and by serving as his scribe. Mormon tradition holds that through the use of Urim and Thummim and/or a seer stone, Smith saw a translation of the writing on the plates and dictated the words to Harris.

Author's sources: *No source provided

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Because Harris desired assurance of the work's authenticity, Smith transcribed characters from the plates to a piece of paper, perhaps the one now known as the Anthon transcript. Harris took this document to New York City, where he met with Charles Anthon, a professor of linguistics at Columbia College. Although Harris and Anthon later told conflicting versions about their encounter, the episode apparently satisfied Harris's doubts about the authenticity of the Golden Plates.

Author's sources: *See EMD 4: 377-86.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: Was Martin Harris a gullible witness who would simply believe anything he was told?

Martin was clear that he required considerable proof to support Joseph

Martin recalled his first discussions with Joseph about the claims regarding plates:

I said, if it is the devil's work I will have nothing to do with it, but if it is the Lord's, you can have all the money necessary to bring it before the world. He [Joseph] said that the angel told him, that the plates must be translated, printed and sent before the world. I said, Joseph, you know my doctrine, that cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man, and maketh flesh him [sic] arm; and we know that the devil is to have great power in the latter days to deceive if possible the very elect; and I don't know that you are one of the elect. Now you must not blame me for not taking your word. If the Lord will show me that it is his work, you can have all the money you want.[12]

Even in religious matters then, Martin was keenly aware of the risk of mistake and deception.

Martin was actually quite skeptical in the beginning of Joseph's ability to translate

There are two specific things that Martin did in order to test Joseph.

  1. He took a copy of characters that Joseph copied from the plates to several professors in New York in order to try and verify them.
  2. He swapped the seer stone that Joseph was using during the Book of Mormon translation in order to test the prophet's ability.

It is well-known that Martin Harris took copies of the Book of Mormon characters to Charles Anthon and another language expert. While Anthon would later claim (in partially contradictory statements) that he had told Harris that it was all a fraud, Harris came back more convinced than ever that Joseph could actually translate.

During the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith often used a small seer stone. On one occasion, Martin Harris switched the stone for another stone of the same appearance. Martin reports what happened:

Once Martin found a rock closely resembling the seerstone Joseph sometimes used in place of the interpreters and substituted it without the Prophet’s knowledge. When the translation resumed, Joseph paused for a long time and then exclaimed, “Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.” Martin then confessed that he wished to “stop the mouths of fools” who told him that the Prophet memorized sentences and merely repeated them. [13]

Here again, Martin conducted a clever "blinded test" of Joseph's ability, and Joseph passed--convincing Martin further.

The story of Martin Harris' desire to take the 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript to convince his family and friends that Joseph was a genuine prophet is also well known. Here again, Martin sought to use empirical proof (the manuscript itself) as evidence that Joseph could do what he claimed.


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Nevertheless, Harris's wife continued to oppose his collaboration with Smith. After translating the first 116 pages of the manuscript, Harris asked Smith for permission to take the manuscript back to his wife in order to convince her of its authenticity. Smith reluctantly agreed. After Harris had shown the pages to Lucy and some others, the manuscript disappeared.

Author's sources: *Doctrine and Covenants 3

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The loss temporarily halted the translation of the plates, and when Smith began again, he used other scribes, primarily Oliver Cowdery. Nevertheless, Harris continued to support Smith financially, and as the translation neared completion, Smith revealed that three men would be called as "special witnesses" to the existence of the Golden Plates. Harris, along with Cowdery and David Whitmer, was one of these Three Witnesses, although Joseph Smith clearly indicated that Harris's experience occurred separately from that of Whitmer and Cowdery.

Author's sources: *Joseph Smith-History, 1839.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Harris's attestation above what was implied to have been a joint testimony was printed with the book, and it has been included in nearly every subsequent edition.

Author's sources: No source provided

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The phrasing "what was implied to have been a joint testimony" is pejorative. All three men's names appeared below the testimony, therefore it was a joint testimony. Harris never disputed or denied that it was.

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In part due to their continued disagreement over the legitimacy of Joseph Smith and the golden plates, and because of the loss of his farm, which he had mortgaged to publish the Book of Mormon,

Author's sources: *In March 2007, Russell Martin Harris, great-great-grandson of Martin Harris, gave a leather wallet, said to have been the one that carried Harris's money to the printer, to the LDS Church so that the wallet could be displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City. AP story.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Harris and his wife separated. Lucy Harris was described by Lucy Mack Smith as a woman of "irascible temper," but Harris may also have abused her. Lucy Harris also suggested that her husband may have committed adultery with a neighboring "Mrs. Haggart."

Author's sources: *Lucy Mack Smith, 1853, in EMD 1: 367; "Lucy Harris statement," in EMD, 2: 34-36: "In one of his fits of rage he struck me with the butt end of a whip, which I think had been used for driving oxen, and was about the size of my thumb, and three or four feet long. He beat me on the head four or five times, and the next day turned me out of doors twice, and beat me in a shameful manner....Whether the Mormon religion be true or false, I leave the world to judge, for its effects upon Martin Harris have been to make him more cross, turbulent and abusive to me." In March 1830, a revelation from Smith warned Harris not to "covet thy neighbor's wife." D&C 19: 25.

FairMormon Response



Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

The wiki editor has taken information from two sources (one of them, the D&C, a primary source) in order to forward the assertion that Martin Harris committed adultery with a neighbor, yet neither source provides any evidence to confirm this. Wikipedia editors are not allowed to interpret primary sources, and must quote secondary sources only.

LDS High Priest

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Harris became an early member of the Church of Christ, which Joseph Smith organized on April 6, 1830. On June 3, 1831, at a conference at the headquarters of the church in Kirtland, Ohio, Harris was ordained to the office of High Priest and served as a missionary in the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and New York.

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Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

On February 17, 1834, Harris was ordained a member of Kirtland High Council, which was then the chief judicial and legislative council of the church. In response to the conflicts between Mormons and non-Mormons in Missouri, Harris joined what is now known as Zion's Camp and marched fruitlessly from Kirtland to Clay County, Missouri. Afterwards, Harris — along with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer — ordained a "traveling High Council" of twelve men that eventually became the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Author's sources: *Joseph Smith, B.H. Roberts (ed.), (1902) History of the Church, 2:186-87.

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The wiki editor is assigning a value to the Zion's Camp experience, and he added the word "fruitlessly" to the existing text. Many future leaders of the Church came from that march. Although it did not achieve its intended purpose (to retake Missouri lands), it is not correct to label it "fruitless."

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

(Some early church leaders claimed that Harris, like Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery, was ordained to the priesthood office of apostle;

Author's sources: *See, e.g., Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 6:29.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

however, there is no record of this ordination, and Harris—as with Cowdery—was never a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.)

Author's sources: *No source provided

FairMormon Response



Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is no extant record of this ordination.

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Lucy Harris died in the summer of 1836, and on November 1, 1836, Harris married Caroline Young, the 22-year-old daughter of Brigham Young's brother, John. Although he was thirty-one years older than his new wife, Harris and Caroline had seven children together.

FairMormon Response



Fact
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The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In 1837, dissension arose in Kirtland over the failure of the church's Kirtland Safety Society bank. Harris called it a "fraud" and was among the dissenters who broke with Smith and attempted to reorganize the church. Led by Warren Parrish, the reformers excommunicated Smith and Sidney Rigdon, who relocated to Far West, Missouri.

Author's sources: *In 1838, Joseph Smith called the Three Witnesses Cowdery, Harris, and Whitmer "too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them." B.H. Roberts, ed. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1905), 3: 232.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: What was the Kirtland Safety Society "anti-bank"?

Given that banking was in its infancy, the Saints were not sophisticated in their understanding of how a bank worked

Even Brigham Young, an astute businessman, was confused. Brigham deposited a note with his mark on it.[14] He was shocked to receive the same note in payment from someone else a few days later! It seems that Brigham thought that the bank kept his note for him, and did not allow it to circulate. He thought of a 'bank' as something more like a safe deposit box—one puts their valuables in, and the bank keeps those same valuables safe, does not lend them out, and returns the exact same items back when asked. Brigham did not understand that a bank keeps a record of money deposited, but uses the funds deposited to make loans and investments, and to pay other creditors.[15]

In principle, the Kirtland Safety Society was to use land and specie to back its notes

The notes would then circulate and function as “money,” which would allow the cash-strapped Kirtland economy to function.

The Kirtland Safety Society was reconfigured as an "anti-banking company" after it failed to receive a charter as a bank

After failing to receive a charter for a bank, the KSS was hastily reconfigured as "a joint stock association, with limited power to issues notes" called the "Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company."[16] This so-called "quasi-bank" style of operation permitted a commercial enterprise to effectively function as a bank without a bank charter. Other such quasi-banks were already organized in Ohio before the KSS, and even after the bank failures of 1837 (when Joseph Smith and others were prosecuted for operating an illegal bank), Ohio did little to act against other quasi-banks until 1873.[17] Significantly, though, the KSS also had no corporate charter that could be "interpreted loosely" to allow for banking activities, and some authors regard this as the single biggest reason for its failure,[18] although others have argued that the KSS was not unique, since "[t]here were other unauthorized banks in Ohio during this period and some encouragement was received from anti-Democratic newspapers to establish such institutions."[19]

On 2 January 1837, Joseph also obtained a loan of $3,000 from the Bank of Geauga, a clear sign that non-Mormon bankers did not regard Joseph has over-extended or carrying too much debt.[20]

The Kirtland Safety Society was an unwise venture that was probably illegal, though legal counsel was divided on that matter at the time

The intent of Church leaders does not seem to have been to break the law, but to solve a vexing problem which thousands of others also faced. The failure of the bank was not due to mismanagement or a desire to enrich individuals, but due to the relatively fragile nature of the time’s financial infrastructure, and the economic conditions of 1837. The lack of a charter was the KSS's biggest weakness and the most ill-advised decision connected with it. Arguably, even had the bank possessed a charter, the outcome would have been little different, save that the Church leaders would have suffered fewer legal problems and harassment.

The Kirtland Safety Society is an excellent example of why Latter-day Saints do not put their trust in men, but in God. It also demonstrates that the Saints will continue to support fallible men as prophets of God.


Question: Was the Kirtland Safety Society a "wildcat bank"?

There is no evidence that the KSS was a “wildcat bank”

There is no evidence that the KSS was a “wildcat bank.” It was located in Kirtland, a large and thriving town in Ohio. The bank did not decline to exchange scrip for specie. In fact, this willingness to honor its notes created trouble for the bank early on, since they had insufficient funds to honor their notes after only about two weeks.


Question: Was Warren Parrish signing new notes for the Kirland Safety Society even after the bank had fallen into difficulty?

It is claimed that Joseph Smith lied about Warren Parrish, falsely charging him with financial misconduct, and trying to shift the blame

There is hard evidence that Parrish was signing new notes for a large amount ($100) when the bank was already in deep difficulty. Whether intentionally fraudulent or not, this was unwise in the extreme—Joseph's caution was appropriate and well-founded.

An examination of surviving Kirtland Safety Society notes provides concrete evidence for Joseph's charge that Parrish was creating new notes

Some light is shed on one other point. One of the notes, with a face value of $100, is signed by Warren Parrish in July 1837. This is independent evidence supporting the charge by Joseph Smith and the Daily Herald and Gazette that Parrish was issuing and circulating notes after Smith had publicly removed himself on June 8 from the bank's operations. Subsequently, Smith warned that

. . . the brethren and friends of the church . . . [ought] to beware of speculators, renegadoes and gamblers, who are duping the unsuspecting and the unwary, by palming upon them, those bills, which are not of worth here. I discountenance and disapprove of any and all such practices. I know them to be detrimental to the best interests of society, as well as to the principles of religion.

Thus Dudley Dean misunderstood the situation when in a recent article he called Joseph Smith's denunciation one of the "most astounding and bizarre announcements ever made by a bank founder." Smith's might more accurately be viewed as a timely attempt to thwart Parrish's ill-advised and perhaps fraudulent effort to revive the ill-fated bank.[21]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Parrish's church in Kirtland took control of the temple and became known as The Church of Christ. In its 1838 articles of incorporation, Harris was named one of the church's three trustees. By 1839, Parrish and other church leaders had rejected the Book of Mormon and consequently broke with Harris, who continued to testify to its truth. By 1840, Harris returned to communion with Smith's church, which had subsequently relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois.

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Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Strangite, Whitmerite, Gladdenite, Williamite, Shaker

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Even before he had become a Mormon, Harris had changed his religion at least five times.

Author's sources: *Harris had been a Quaker, a Universalist, a Restorationist, a Baptist, a Presbyterian, and perhaps a Methodist. Walker (1986) , pp. 30–33

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Fact
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Question: Did Martin Harris change his religion five times prior to the Restoration?

Palmyra sources do not yet prove that Martin was a Quaker, though his wife probably was, and there is no evidence yet that associates Martin with the Baptist or Presbyterian churches

This is an old charge from one of the earliest anti-Mormon works. Richard L. Anderson noted:

The arithmetic of Martin's five religious changes before Mormonism is also faulty. The claim comes from the hostile Palmyra affidavits published by E. D. Howe; G. W. Stoddard closed his in sarcasm against Martin Harris: "He was first an orthodox Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyterian, and then a Mormon."[22] Palmyra sources do not yet prove that Martin was a Quaker, though his wife probably was.[23] And no evidence yet associates Martin with the Baptist or Presbyterian churches. Note that the other two names are religious positions, not necessarily churches—philosophical Universalists dissent from traditional churches in believing that God will save all, and Restorationists obviously take literally the many Bible prophecies of God's reestablished work in modern times. An early Episcopal minister in Palmyra interviewed Martin and reduced his five positions to two: "He had been, if I mistake not, at one period a member of the Methodist Church, and subsequently had identified himself with the Universalists."[24] Of course Martin could have been a Universalist and Restorationer simultaneously. This view fits what other Palmyra sources say about Martin Harris. In the slanted words of Pomeroy Tucker, who knew him personally, "He was a religious monomaniac, reading the Scriptures intently, and could probably repeat from memory nearly every text of the Bible from beginning to end, chapter and verse in each case."[25]

Martin Harris: "In the year 1818—52 years ago—I was inspired of the Lord and taught of the Spirit that I should not join any church, although I was anxiously sought for by many of the sectarians"

This impression of Martin as Bible student outside of organized religions is just what Martin says in his little-known autobiography of this period:

In the year 1818-52 years ago—I was inspired of the Lord and taught of the Spirit that I should not join any church, although I was anxiously sought for by many of the sectarians. I was taught two could not walk together unless agreed. What can you not be agreed [is] in the Trinity because I cannot find it in my Bible, Find it for me, and I am ready to receive it. . . . Others' sects, the Episcopalians, also tried me—they say 3 persons in one God, without body, parts, or passions. I told them such a God I would not be afraid of: I could not please or offend him. . . . The Methodists took their creed from me. I told them to release it or I would sue them . . . The Spirit told me to join none of the churches, for none had authority from the Lord, for there will not be a true church on the earth until the words of Isaiah shall be fulfilled. . . . So I remained until the Church was organized by Joseph Smith the Prophet. Then I was baptized . . . being the first after Joseph and Oliver Cowdery. And then the Spirit bore testimony that this was all right, and I rejoiced in the established Church. Previous to my being baptized I became a witness of the plates of the Book of Mormon.[26]

The above is Martin Harris's creed, held for the half-century before giving this statement on returning to the Church, plus the five additional years that he lived in Utah. For the dozen years prior to joining Mormonism he was a seeker, like scores of other LIDS converts, and through life never departed from his confidence that the Bible prophecies were fulfilled in the Restoration through Joseph Smith. This core belief was what everything else related to, the structure that stood before, during, and after any gingerbread decorations at Kirtland.[27]

In any case, such a charge is simply ad hominem--to deny Harris' testimony because of beliefs he had prior to the restoration.


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

After Smith's death, Harris continued this earlier pattern, remaining in Kirtland and accepting James J. Strang as Mormonism's new prophet, a prophet with his own set of supernatural plates and witnesses to authenticate them.

Author's sources: *In August 1846, Harris traveled on a mission to England for the Strangite church.

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Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There was no "supernatural" component to the story of Strang's plates. None of Strang's witnesses claimed to have seen an angel.

Question: What are the differences between the Strangite witness statements and those of the Three and Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon?

Strang's witnesses saw nothing supernatural

No one doubts that Strang had a set of a few very small metallic plates in his possession, or that they were removed from the earth in the manner reported above. In that sense, there would be nothing for his witnesses to deny.

Wrote Daniel C. Peterson in "Defending the Faith: The story behind James Strang and his sect," Deseret News (9 June 2011) off-site

The two sets of inscribed plates that Strang claimed to have found in Wisconsin and Michigan beginning in 1845 almost certainly existed. Milo Quaife's early, standard biography of Strang reflects that, while Strang's angelic visitations "may have had only a subjective existence in the brain of the man who reported them, the metallic plates possessed a very material objective reality."

And they were almost certainly forgeries.

The first set, the three "Voree" or "Rajah Manchou" plates, were dug up by four "witnesses" whom Strang had taken to the plates' burial place. Illustrated and inscribed on both sides, the Rajah Manchou plates were roughly 1.5 by 2.75 inches in size — small enough to fit in the palm of a hand or to carry in a pocket.[28]

Some of Strang's witnesses later repudiated their testimonies, and one witness later admitted helping to fabricate the plates

Ex-strangite Isaac Scott, who was once a leader in the Strangite Church, stated that Caleb P. Barnes told him that he and Strang had actually fabricated the plates. According to Scott, the men,

made the 'plates' out of Ben [Perce]'s old kettle and engraved them with an old saw file, and ... when completed they put acid on them to corrode them and give them an ancient appearance; and that to deposit them under the tree, where they were found, they took a large auger ... which Ben [Perce] owned, put a fork handle on the auger and with it bored a long slanting hole under a tree on 'The Hill of Promise,' as they called it, laying the earth in a trail on a cloth as taken out, then put the 'plates' in, tamping in all the earth again, leaving no trace of their work visible. [29]

Peterson continues:

Among the many who saw them was Stephen Post, who reported that they were brass and, indeed, that they resembled the French brass used in familiar kitchen kettles. "With all the faith & confidence that I could exercise," he wrote, "all that I could realize was that Strang made the plates himself, or at least that it was possible that he made them." One source reports that most of the four witnesses to the Rajah Manchou plates ultimately repudiated their testimonies.

The 18 "Plates of Laban," likewise of brass and each about 7.5 by 9 inches, were first mentioned in 1849 and were seen by seven witnesses in 1851. These witnesses' testimony was published as a preface to "The Book of the Law of the Lord," which Strang said he derived from the "Plates of Laban." (He appears to have begun the "translation" at least as early as April 1849. An 84-page version appeared in 1851; by 1856, it had reached 350 pages.) Strang's witnesses report seeing the plates, but mention nothing miraculous. Nor did Strang supply any additional supporting testimony comparable to that of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon.

One of the witnesses to the "Plates of Laban," Samuel P. Bacon, eventually denied the inspiration of Strang's movement and denounced it as mere "human invention." Another, Samuel Graham, later claimed that he had actually assisted Strang in the creation of the plates.[30]

Chauncy Loomis reports that Samuel Graham described how the Plates of Laban were fabricated, and Samuel Bacon finds remnants of the plates hidden in Strang's ceiling

Chauncy Loomis, in a letter to Joseph Smith III dated 10 Nov. 1888 and published in the Saint's Herald, talked of a conversation that he had with George Adams. Adams described how Strang had asked him to dress in a long white robe and use phosphorous to impersonate an angel. Adams also reported that Samuel Graham talked about how he and Strang fabricated the Plates of Laban. Loomis reported that Samuel Bacon discovered fragments of the plates hidden in the ceiling of Strang's house, and then left the Strangite Church.

At this time George [Adams] was gone from the island on some business. When he returned and saw how things were going he left the island with his family. I saw him and wife after this on Mackinaw Island. He said to me, “Brother Loomis, I always thought you to be an honest man, but you are like poor dog Tray; you have been caught in bad company, and now my advice to you is to leave the island, for I tell you Strang is not a prophet of God. I consider him to be a self-confessed imposter. Strang wanted me to get a couple of bottles of phosphoros and dress myself in a long white robe and appear on the highest summit on the island, called Mount Pisgah, break the bottles, make an illumination and blow a trumpet and disappear so that he might make it appear that an angel had made them a visit; that it might beget faith in the Saint.” I said to him, “Brother Adams, how is it that you deny the testimony given by you so long ago, that you knew Strang was a prophet of God?” “Well, brother Loomis, I will tell you: I was in the spirit of Strang then.” I have since thought that if he ever spoke the truth it was then. I speak of these things that you may see how we were Strang led. I was in the spirit of Strang and foretold some things that would befall us which never came to pass; but I believe that myself and another brother at one time had the Spirit of God, for we prophesied that Strang would be killed, and the Saints would be driven from the island, which truly did come to pass. I shall now make some statement in regard to others who were the chief men of the kingdom. Bro. Samuel Graham, I think, president of the Twelve, declared that he and Strang made those plates that Strang claimed to translate the Book of the Law from. But they in the first place prepared the plates and coated them with beeswax and then formed the letters and cut them in with a pen knife and then exhibited them to the rest of the Twelve. The facts were Graham apostatized and left the island, taking his family and Strang’s first wife, Mary, with him to Voree, Wisconsin. At this time Strang was at Detroit, Michigan. His wife never returned to him; he had four others besides and some concubines. Bro. Samuel Bacon says that in repairing Strang’s house he found hid behind the ceiling the fragments of those plates which Strang made the Book of the Law from. He turned infidel and left the island. [30]

Image of page 719 of the Saint's Herald dated 10 Nov. 1888.

Peterson concludes,

"We can hardly escape the conclusion," writes Quaife, "that Strang knowingly fabricated and planted them for the purpose of duping his credulous followers" and, accordingly, that "Strang's prophetic career was a false and impudent imposture." A more recent biographer, Roger Van Noord, concludes that "based on the evidence, it is probable that Strang — or someone under his direction — manufactured the letter of appointment and the brass plates to support his claim to be a prophet and to sell land at Voree. If this scenario is correct, Strang's advocacy of himself as a prophet was more than suspect, but no psychological delusion."

Thus, Strang's plates were much less numerous than those of the Book of Mormon, his witnesses saw nothing supernatural and his translation required the better part of a decade rather than a little more than two months. (Quite unlike the semi-literate Joseph Smith, Strang was well-read. He had been an editor and lawyer before his involvement with Mormonism.) Perhaps most strikingly, unlike the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, some (at least) of Strang's witnesses later denied their testimonies.

The contrasts work very much in Joseph Smith's favor.[31]

In summary, Strang's witnesses:

  • had no supernatural component to their witness
  • had one who later denounced his project as mere "human invention"
  • had one who later confessed to helping fabricate the plates

The collective testimony of the Book of Mormon Witnesses is, in terms of its evidentiary value and strength, far more challenging to critics than is the testimony of James J. Strang's witnesses.


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

By 1847, Harris had broken with Strang and accepted the leadership claims of fellow Book of Mormon witness, David Whitmer. Mormon Apostle William E. M'Lellin organized a Whitmerite congregation in Kirtland, and Harris became a member. By 1851, Harris accepted another Latter Day Saint factional leader, Gladden Bishop, as prophet and joined Bishop's Kirtland-based organization.

Author's sources: *Walker (1986) , pp. 29–30

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Fact
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The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In 1855, Harris joined with the last surviving brother of Joseph Smith, William Smith and declared that William was Joseph's true successor. Harris was also briefly intrigued by the "Roll and Book," a supernatural scripture delivered to the Shakers.

Author's sources: *A pro-Mormon defense of Harris's behavior with regard to the Shakers. Harris never actually joined the Shakers; they advocated celibacy, and Harris was married. But Phineas H. Young told Brigham Young that Harris' testimony of Shakerism was "greater than it was of the Book of Mormon." Letter of Phineas H. Young to Brigham Young, Dec. 31, 1844.

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Question: Does Martin Harris' involvement with the Shakers undercut his testimony?

We do not know whether the Kirtland Mormons heard Martin Harris say this, or whether they heard it secondhand: The statement does not fit Martin's other numerous statements

Matthew Roper wrote:

As Anderson rightly notes, "Every affiliation of Martin Harris was with some Mormon group, except when he accepted some Shaker beliefs, a position not basically contrary to his testimony of the Book of Mormon because the foundation of that movement was acceptance of personal revelation from heavenly beings."[32]

Richard L. Anderson discussed Martin’s involvement with the Shakers and considered it a good example of how an apparent problem can strengthen the force of the Witnesses’ testimony:

Studying a problem with a Book of Mormon witness will generally lead to better understanding of the witness, the situation with an 1844 report: "Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was of the Book of Mormon."[33] This word to the Twelve from Phineas Young and others is vague, for we do not know whether these Kirtland Mormons heard Martin Harris say this, or whether they heard it secondhand. His leaning to Shakerism is probably accurate, but Harris's precise wording is all-important if one claims that he testified of Shakerism instead of the Book of Mormon. This "either-or" reading of the document does not fit Martin's lifetime summary of all his interviews: "no man ever heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon, the administration of the angel that showed me the plates."[34] For instance, at the same time as the above 1844 letter, Edward Bunker met Martin in the Kirtland Temple, visited his home, "and heard him bear his testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon."[35] And six months later Jeremiah Cooper traveled to Kirtland and visited with Martin Harris: "he bore testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon."[36]

Martin's Shaker sympathies terminated some time before 1855, when Thomas Colburn reported his attitude: "he tried the Shakers, but that would not do."[37] In the meantime Martin was intrigued by their claims of revelation, though he surely never espoused all Shaker beliefs, for thoroughgoing Shakers renounced the married life that Martin had during these years.[38] Fully committed Shakers also lived in communities like nearby North Union, whereas Martin remained in Kirtland during this period. Their appeal lay in a Pentecostal seeking of the Spirit and emphasis on preparation for Christ's coming. When Phineas Young mentioned Martin's Shaker belief, a new book of Shaker origin was circulating, "A Holy, Sacred, and Divine Roll and Book, from the Lord God of Heaven to the Inhabitants of Earth." Since it claimed to come from angels to prepare the world for the Millennium, it would be broadly harmonious with Martin Harris's commitment to the Book of Mormon, which in a far more historical and rational sense is committed to the same goal. Indeed, the Shaker movement later tended to slough off the "Divine Roll" as produced by an excess of enthusiasm.[39]

Martin still gave priority to his Book of Mormon testimony

Anderson continues,

We do not know whether Martin ever accepted this book as true, but he showed one like it to a visitor. This act does not show belief in that book, since it may have been exhibited as a curiosity, but the following journal entry shows that even if Shaker literature was present in 1850, Martin still gave priority to his Book of Mormon testimony: "I went to see Martin Harris. He was one of the 3 Witnesses to the Book of Mormon and said he knew it was true, for he saw the plates and knew for himself. I heard his little girl—she was 7 years old. I read some in what they called the Holy Roll, but no God."[40] Anyone following this discussion can soon see that authentic statements from the Book of Mormon witnesses are voluminous and always repeat the reality of their experience. Yet the first anti-Mormon book was written in 1834 within a dozen miles of their residences and set the precedent of not contacting them but devoting most space to show them to be either superstitious or dishonest.[41] This became a formula: ignore the testimony and attack the witness, the same pattern as the detailed current treatments. That method is sure to caricature its victims: lead off with the worst names anyone ever called them, take all charges as presented without investigating, solidify mistakes as lifelong characteristics, and ignore all positive accomplishments or favorable judgments on their lives. Such bad methods will inevitably produce bad men on paper. The only problem with this treatment is that it cheats the consumer—it appears to investigate personality without really doing so.[42]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

By the 1860s, all of these organizations had either dissolved or declined. In 1856, his wife Caroline left him to gather with the Mormons in Utah while he remained in Kirtland and gave tours of the temple to curious visitors.

Author's sources: *EMD, 2: 258.

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Rebaptism into the LDS faith

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In 1870, at age 87, Harris moved to the Utah Territory and shortly thereafter was rebaptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Harris, who had been left destitute and without a congregation in Kirtland, accepted the assistance of members of the LDS Church, who raised $200 to help him move west to Utah. Harris lived the last four and a half years of his life with relatives in Cache Valley. He died on June 10, 1875 in Clarkston, Utah and was buried there. A pageant about Harris called "Martin Harris, The Man Who Knew", sponsored by LDS Church, is performed every other year in August in Clarkston.

Author's sources: *Martin Harris Pageant

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Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Testimony to the Book of Mormon

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Although he was estranged from the LDS Church for most of his life, Harris continued to testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, at least during the early years, Harris "seems to have repeatedly admitted the internal, subjective nature of his visionary experience."

Author's sources: *Vogel, EMD, 2: 255.

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Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The comment about Harris "repeatedly admitted the internal, subjective nature of his visionary experience" is simply an editorial comment from the editor of the volume, Dan Vogel. It's inclusion here is an attempt by the Wiki author to discount the fact that Harris "Harris continued to testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon" event when he was "estranged from the LDS Church for most of his life."

Martin Harris said that "He had seen and handled them all"

An early hostile account of Martin Harris' testimony in 1831 makes it clear that Harris' listeners got the message that the experience was literal, though done by God's power. The Painseville Telegraph published the following on 15 March 1831:

Martin Harris, another chief of Mormon imposters, arrived here last Saturday from the bible quarry in New-York. He immediately planted himself in the bar-room of the hotel, where he soon commenced reading and explaining the Mormon hoax, and all the dark passages from Genesis to Revelations. He told all about the gold plates, Angels, Spirits, and Jo Smith.—He had seen and handled them all, by the power of God![43]


Edward Stevenson (1870): Martin Harris said "my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel"

Elder Edward Stevenson reported in 1870:

On one occasion several of his old acquaintances made an effort to get him tipsy by treating him to some wine. When they thought he was in a good mood for talk they put the question very carefully to him, ‘Well, now, Martin, we want you to be frank and candid with us in regard to this story of your seeing an angel and the golden plates of the Book of Mormon that are so much talked about. We have always taken you to be an honest good farmer and neighbor of ours but could not believe that you did see an angel. Now, Martin, do you really believe that you did see an angel, when you were awake?’ ‘No,’ said Martin, ‘I do not believe it.’ The crowd were delighted, but soon a different feeling prevailed, as Martin true to his trust, said, ‘Gentlemen, what I have said is true, from the fact that my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel, and it was the brightness of day.” [44]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The foreman in the Palmyra printing office that produced the first Book of Mormon said that Harris "used to practice a good deal of his characteristic jargon and 'seeing with the spiritual eye,' and the like."

Author's sources: *Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 71 in EMD, 3: 122.

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Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: Do Martin Harris's statements related to the "spiritual eye" or "eye of faith" contradict the reality of his witness?

Some wish to make it appear as though the statements made by Martin Harris about the Three Witnesses’ manifestation discount its reality. Doing so pulls Harris’ statements out of their proper context. This vital viewpoint can be regained by simply taking a look at several passages from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants—which all predate Martin’s public statements about the nature of his experience.

The scriptural witnesses

Ether 5:2–3

This prophetic passage had a direct application to Martin Harris as one of the Three Witnesses. It said: “the plates . . . . unto three shall they be shown by the power of God

D&C 5:11,13,24–26

“unto [three of my servants] I will show these things . . . . I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are.” Speaking specifically of Martin Harris: “then will I grant unto him a view of the things which he desires to see. And then he shall say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith, Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God and not of man. And I the Lord command him, my servant Martin Harris, that he shall say no more unto them concerning these things, except he shall say: I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God; and these are the words which he shall say.”

D&C 17:1–3,5

All three of the witnesses were told: “you shall have a view of the plates . . . . And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old . . . . And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them . . . . And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith

From these scriptural texts it is evident that:

  • The Three Witnesses were required by God to exercise faith like “the prophets of old” in order to view the angel and the plates (cf. Moroni 7:37; DC 20:6).
  • God would exercise His power to enable the Three Witnesses to see things that were not usually visible to mortal eyes.
  • Nevertheless, the Three Witnesses would see the angel and the plates “with [their] eyes” and “as they are” in objective reality.

Contemporary witnesses

Joseph Smith was an eyewitness to what Martin Harris said at the exact moment that the manifestation took place. He reported that Martin's words were: "Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld". [45] Another eyewitness, named Alma Jensen, saw Martin Harris point to his physical eyes while testifying that he had seen both the angel and the plates. [46]

Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to a skeptical author in November 1829, and spoke for both himself and Harris on the question of whether there was some trickery or "juggling" at work:

"It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, [who] ascend [descended I suppose] out of the midst of heaven. Now if this is human juggling—judge ye".[47]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

John H. Gilbert, the typesetter for most of the book, said that he had asked Harris, "Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" According to Gilbert, Harris "looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, 'No, I saw them with a spiritual eye."

Author's sources: *John H. Gilbert, "Memorandum," 8 September 1892, in EMD, 2: 548.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

John Gilbert did indeed state this in 1892, 42 years after the Book of Mormon was published

Question: Did Martin Harris tell people that he only saw the plates with his "spiritual eye"?

John H. Gilbert, who printed the Book of Mormon, reported that Harris said that he saw the plates with his "spiritual eye"

John H. Gilbert:

Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses,—(Harris—Cowdery and Whitmer—) I said to him,—"Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spir[i]tual eye."[48]

Pomeroy Tucker told of Harris using the phrase "seeing with the spiritual eye"

Pomeroy Tucker in his book Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (1867) also refers to Harris using the phrase "spiritual eye":

How to reconcile the act of Harris in signing his name to such a statement, in view of the character of honesty which had always been conceded to him, could never be easily explained. In reply to uncharitable suggestions of his neighbors, he used to practise a good deal of his characteristic jargon about "seeing with the spiritual eye," and the like. [49]

Martin elsewhere emphasized that the vision was also with the "natural eye," to enable them to "testify of it to the world"

In 1875, Martin said:

"The Prophet Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer and myself, went into a little grove to pray to obtain a promise that we should behold it with our eyes natural eyes, that we could testify of it to the world (emphasis added)."[50]

Harris did not, then, see "spiritual eye" and "natural eye" as mutually exclusive categories. Both described something about the witness experience.


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Two other Palmyra residents said that Harris told them that he had seen the plates with "the eye of faith" or "spiritual eyes."

Author's sources: *Martin Harris interviews with John A. Clark, 1827 & 1828 in EMD, 2: 270; Jesse Townsend to Phineas Stiles, 24 December 1833, in EMD, 3: 22.

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Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: Did Martin Harris tell people that he did not see the plates with his natural eyes, but rather the "eye of faith"?

A former pastor, John A. Clark, said that a "gentleman in Palmyra" told him that Harris said that he saw the plates with the "eye of faith"

John A. Clark, a former pastor who considered Joseph Smith a fraud and the Book of Mormon “an imposture,” states,

To know how much this testimony [of three witnesses] is worth I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly,-”Did you see those plates?” Harris replied, he did. “Did you see the plates, and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes?” Harris replied, “Yes, I saw them with my eyes,-they were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.” “But did you see them with your natural,-your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.” Harris replied,-”Why I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me,-though at the time they were covered over with a cloth.[51]

John A. Clark did not interview Martin Harris - he was repeating what someone else told him

The source cited is “Martin Harris interviews with John A. Clark, 1827 & 1828,” Early Mormon Documents 2:270. However, rather than being an interview between Clark and Harris, as implied by the title of reference work using in the citation, Clark’s actual statement clearly says that he received his information from a “gentleman in Palmyra…a professor of religion,” who said that he had talked with Harris. This is not an interview between Clark and Harris.

Larry E. Morris notes that the “claim that ‘Harris told John A. Clark’ is not accurate. This is not secondhand testimony but thirdhand—’he said that he said that he said.’….As if that weren’t enough, Clark does not name his source—making it impossible to judge that person’s honesty or reliability. What we have is a thirdhand, anonymous account of what Martin Harris supposedly said.” (Larry E. Morris, FARMS Review, Vol. 15, Issue 1.)

Clark's account mixes elements from both before and after Harris viewed the plates as one of the Three Witnesses and portrays Harris as contradicting himself

The two elements that are mixed together in Clark's account are the following:

  1. Martin Harris said that he only saw the plates through the "eye of faith" when they were covered with a cloth prior to his experience as a witness.
  2. Martin Harris saw the plates uncovered as one of the three witnesses.

Note also that the date assigned to these comments places them prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, yet Clark’s statement appears to include elements from both before and after Harris viewed the plates as a witness. Harris “saw them” with his eyes when he acted as one of the Three Witnesses, but he only saw them through the “eye of faith” when they were covered with a cloth prior to his being a witness. Clark’s third-hand hostile relation of another hostile source, makes no distinction between these events, and instead portrays Harris as contradicting himself.

When Martin Harris said that he had seen the angel and the plates with his "spiritual eyes" or with an "eye of faith" he may have simply been employing some scriptural language that he was familiar with. Such statements do not mean that the angel and the plates were imaginary, hallucinatory, or just an inner mental image—the earliest accounts of Martin Harris' testimony makes the literal nature of the experience unmistakable.

Rather than being hallucinatory or "merely" spiritual, Martin claimed that the plates and angel were seen by physical eyes that had been enhanced by the power of God to view more objects than a mortal could normally see (cf. DC 76:12; DC 67:10-13).


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In 1838, Harris is said to have told an Ohio congregation that "he never saw the plates with his natural eyes, only in vision or imagination."

Author's sources: *Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson, 15 April 1838 in EMD, 2: 291.

FairMormon Response



Question: Why would Martin Harris use the phrases "eye of faith" or "spiritual eye" to describe his visionary experience?

Martin Harris was using scriptural language to describe his visionary experience

Why did Martin Harris use the particular phraseology that he did in describing his experience? Perhaps the answer lies in another passage found in the book of Ether 12:19.

And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.

Here it is noted that those people who have "exceedingly strong" faith can see things "within the veil." But even though they see things in the spiritual realm "with their eyes" it is described as beholding things with "an eye of faith."

Another possibility can be seen in the text of Moses 1:11. It reads:

But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face.

This dovetails nicely with the description of David Whitmer who "explained that he saw the plates, and with his natural eyes, but he had to be prepared for it—that he and the other witnesses were overshadowed by the power of God." [52]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

A neighbor of Harris in Kirtland, Ohio, said that Harris "never claimed to have seen [the plates] with his natural eyes, only spiritual vision."

Author's sources: *Reuben P. Harmon statement, c. 1885, in EMD, 2: 385.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

From the cited source (Early Mormon Documents 2:385):

I have questioned him much about the plates from which the "Book of Mormon" purports to have been translated. He never claimed to have seen them with his natural eyes, only spiritual vision. He said it was impossible for the prophet Joseph to get up the "Book of Mormon," for he could not spell the word Sarah. He had him repeat the letters of the word. He was a very illiterate man.

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In March 1838, disillusioned church members said that Harris had publicly denied that neither he nor the other Witnesses to the Book of Mormon had ever seen or handled the golden plates—although he had not been present when Whitmer and Cowdery first claimed to have viewed them—and they claimed that Harris's recantation, made during a period of crisis in early Mormonism, induced five influential members, including three Apostles, to leave the Church.

Author's sources: *Stephen Burnett to Luke S. Johnson, 15 April 1838, in Joseph Smith's Letterbook, Early Mormon Documents 2: 290-92.

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is the same exact citation used two paragraphs earlier. This make it appear that there were two different events, when in reality both paragraphs are referring to the same event.
  • Stephen Burnett in his letter felt that Joseph Smith had "filched the monies of the Church from their pockets and brought them nigh unto distruction. (sic)" He goes on to speak of Martin Harris and the other witnesses. From the cited source (Early Mormon Documents 2:290-92: "...but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in a public congregation that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver [Cowdery] nor David [Whitmer] & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins."

Question: Did Martin Harris claim that he only saw the gold plates as they were covered "as a city through a mountain"?

A letter from Stephen Burnett claims that Harris never saw the plates at all, and that he only saw them when they were covered with a cloth

The quote in question is from a letter from Stephen Burnett to "Br. Johnson" on 15 April 1838:

when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundation was sapped & the entire superstructure fell in heap of ruins, I therefore three week since in the Stone Chapel...renounced the Book of Mormon...after we were done speaking M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city throught [sic] a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of—–—[him/me?] but should have let it passed as it was...[53]

When Harris said that "he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them," he was not referring to his experience as one of the Three Witnesses

The comment about hefting the plates repeatedly while they were covered by a cloth refers to the period of time when he was assisting Joseph Smith in the translation - a time during which Harris was not allowed to view the plates. What is missing from Burnett's account is any mention of Harris stating that he saw the plates as one of the Three Witnesses. For years after Harris is said to have made the comment related by Burnett, he used clear language to assert that he had actually seen the plates. For example, Martin Harris said in the presence of 12-year-old William Glenn:

Gentlemen, do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Are your eyes playing a trick or something? No. Well, as sure as you see my hand so sure did I see the angel and the plates.[54]

Harris told Robert Aveson,

It is not a mere belief, but is a matter of knowledge. I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel, and he showed them unto me.[55]

George Mantle recalls what Martin Harris said while he was in Birmingham on a mission for the Strangites. This was well after Martin had left the Church:

When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting that he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism; but when he was asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes; and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: 'Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God.'[56]

These statements are much clearer regarding Martin's experience with the place than Burnett's account of him claiming to have seen the plates while they were covered as a "city through a mountain".


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Even at the end of his long life, Harris said that he had seen the plates in "a state of entrancement."

Author's sources: *Metcalf in EMD, 2: 347.

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The phrase "even at the end of his long life" is pejorative. The wiki editor is attempting to show that Harris wasn't quite sure what he saw, despite his numerous statements attesting to having seen the actual physical plates. Note the editor's edit summary: "addition of some non-faith promoting material."

From the cited source (Early Mormon Documents 2:347):

In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates."

Editor Dan Vogel notes that the Metcalf interview is at variance with other accounts of this event, which state that Harris had his vision of the angel and the plates the same day as Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer.

Martin Harris (1873-1874): "While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates"

Anthony Metcalf interviewed Martin Harris in the 1873 or 1874 timeframe. Note that Metcalf considered Joseph Smith a "pretended prophet" and was therefore relating Harris's claims from a skeptical perspective:

Following is the history as related to me, including all his connections with Joseph Smith, the pretended prophet and the founder of the Mormon church: He told me all about the translating of the Book of Mormon, and said he had give $5,000 towards its publication. He said "I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state. I wrote a great deal of the Book of Mormon myself, as Joseph Smith translated or spelled the words out in English. Sometimes the plates would be on a table in the room in which Smith did the translating, covered over with cloth. I was told by Joseph Smith that God would strike him dead if he attempted to look at them, and I believed it. When the time came for the three witnesses to see the plates, Joseph Smith, myself, David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, went into the woods to pray. When they had all engaged in prayer, they failed at that time to see the plates or the angel who should have been on hand to exhibit them. They all believed it was because I was not good enough, or, in other words, not sufficiently sanctified. I withdrew. As soon as I had gone away, the three others saw the angel and the plates. In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates." [57]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Nevertheless, in 1853, Harris told one David Dille that he had held the forty- to sixty-pound plates on his knee for "an hour-and-a-half" and handled the plates with his hands, "plate after plate."

Author's sources: *Martin Harris interview with David B. Dille, 15 September 1853 in EMD 2: 296-97.

FairMormon Response



Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

The sentence as it is structured in Wikipedia is disingenuous. The cited source says nothing about the weight of the plates, and the wiki editor conflates the event during which Martin held the plates on his knee with Martin's later encounter with the plates as a witness. The wiki editor has taken the statement about Harris holding the plates on his knee for an hour and a half and attempted to use this for the purpose of implying that the plates would have been too heavy had Harris been telling the truth. It is also not made clear that the handling of the plates occurred during Martin's experience as one of the Three Witnesses. Note the editor's edit summary: "addition of some non-faith promoting material." The material certainly does not need to be faith-promoting, but the editor is "stacking the deck" in this case.
  • From the cited source (Early Mormon Documents 2:297):

I was the right-hand man of Joseph Smith, and I know that he was a Prophet of God. I know the Book of Mormon is true...And you know that I know that it is true. I know that the plates have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice declared it unto us; therefore I know of a surety that the work is true. For...did I not at one time hold the plates on my knee an hour-and-a-half, whilst in conversation with Joseph, when we went to bury them in the woods, that the enemy might not obtain them? Yes, I did. And as many of the plates as Joseph Smith translated I handled with my hands, plate after plate."

David Dille on Martin Harris (1855): "As many of the plates as Joseph Smith translated I handled with my hands"

Mr. Harris replied and said —"I was the right-hand man of Joseph Smith, and I know that he was a Prophet of God. I know the Book of Mormon is true." The smiting his fist on the table, he said—"And you know that I know that it is true." I know that the plates have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice declared it unto us; Therefore I know of a surety that the work is true. For," continued Mr. Harris, "did i not at one time hold the plates on my knee an hour-and-a-half, whilst in conversation with Joseph, when we went to bury them in the woods, that the enemy might not obtain them? Yes, I did. And as many of the plates as Joseph Smith translated I handled with my hands, plate after plate." Then describing their dimensions, he pointed with one of the fingers of his left hand to the back of his right hand and said, "I should think they were so long, or about eight inches, and about so thick, or about four inches; and each of the plates was thicker than the thickest tin."[58]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Even later, Harris affirmed that he had seen the plates and the angel with his natural eyes: "Gentlemen," holding out his hand, "do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Or are your eyes playing you a trick or something? No. Well, as sure as you see my hand so sure did I see the Angel and the plates."

Author's sources: *Martin Harris interview with Robert Barter, c. 1870 in EMD, 2: 390.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

There are additional statements from Martin Harris not mentioned in Wikipedia in which he states that he saw the angel and the plates.

Martin Harris said that "He had seen and handled them all"

An early hostile account of Martin Harris' testimony in 1831 makes it clear that Harris' listeners got the message that the experience was literal, though done by God's power. The Painseville Telegraph published the following on 15 March 1831:

Martin Harris, another chief of Mormon imposters, arrived here last Saturday from the bible quarry in New-York. He immediately planted himself in the bar-room of the hotel, where he soon commenced reading and explaining the Mormon hoax, and all the dark passages from Genesis to Revelations. He told all about the gold plates, Angels, Spirits, and Jo Smith.—He had seen and handled them all, by the power of God![59]


Martin Harris said that "All would be damned that rejected it"

George A. Smith wrote the following in a letter dated 30 March 1838:

Martin Harris then bore testimony of its truth and said all would be damned that rejected it.[60]


Joseph Fielding on Martin Harris: "Martin Harris...gave me a particular description of the plates"

Joseph Fielding stated on 20 June 1841 in the Millennial Star:

Martin Harris...gave me a particular description of the plates and of the Urim and Thummim, &c.[61]


Martin Harris: "As sure as you see my hand so sure did I see the angel and the plates"

Martin Harris said in the presence of 12-year-old William Glenn:

Gentlemen, do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Are your eyes playing a trick or something? No. Well, as sure as you see my hand so sure did I see the angel and the plates.[62]


Martin Harris: "I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel, and he showed them unto me"

Martin Harris told Robert Aveson,

It is not a mere belief, but is a matter of knowledge. I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel, and he showed them unto me.[63]


George Mantle on Martin Harris (1846): "Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith...translated that book"

George Mantle recalls what Martin Harris said while he was in Birmingham on a mission for the Strangites. This was well after Martin had left the Church:

When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting that he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism; but when he was asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes; and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: 'Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God.'[64]


David Dille on Martin Harris (1855): "As many of the plates as Joseph Smith translated I handled with my hands"

Mr. Harris replied and said —"I was the right-hand man of Joseph Smith, and I know that he was a Prophet of God. I know the Book of Mormon is true." The smiting his fist on the table, he said—"And you know that I know that it is true." I know that the plates have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice declared it unto us; Therefore I know of a surety that the work is true. For," continued Mr. Harris, "did i not at one time hold the plates on my knee an hour-and-a-half, whilst in conversation with Joseph, when we went to bury them in the woods, that the enemy might not obtain them? Yes, I did. And as many of the plates as Joseph Smith translated I handled with my hands, plate after plate." Then describing their dimensions, he pointed with one of the fingers of his left hand to the back of his right hand and said, "I should think they were so long, or about eight inches, and about so thick, or about four inches; and each of the plates was thicker than the thickest tin."[65]


Martin Harris (1871): "No man ever heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon"

Martin Harris wrote the following in a letter to Hanna B. Emerson in January 1871:

I answer emphatically, No, I did not;—no man ever heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon, the administration of the angel that showed me the plates; nor the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, under the administration of Joseph Smith Jun., the prophet whom the Lord raised up for that purpose, in these the latter days, that he may show forth his power and glory. The Lord has shown me these things by his Spirit—by the administration of holy angels—and confirmed the same with signs following, step by step, as the work has progressed, for the space of fifty-three years. [66]


Martin Harris: "I did not see them, as i do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith"

John A. Clark, a former pastor who considered Joseph Smith a fraud and the Book of Mormon “an imposture,” states that he heard a "gentleman in Palmyra" repeat something Harris had said,

To know how much this testimony [of three witnesses] is worth I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly,-”Did you see those plates?” Harris replied, he did. “Did you see the plates, and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes?” Harris replied, “Yes, I saw them with my eyes,-they were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.” “But did you see them with your natural,-your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.” Harris replied,-”Why I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me,-though at the time they were covered over with a cloth.[67]


Martin Harris: "Just as plain as you see that chopping block, I saw the plates"

Well, just as plain as you see that chopping block, I saw the plates; and sooner than I would deny it I would lay my head upon that chopping block and let you chop it off.[68]


Eber D. Howe on Martin Harris: "He does not pretend that he ever saw the wonderful plates but once"

Eber D. Howe, author of the first "anti-Mormon" book Mormonism Unvailed, had this to say about Harris:

[Martin Harris] does not pretend that he ever saw the wonderful plates but once, although he and Smith were engaged for months in deciphering their contents.[69]


Stephen Burnett on Martin Harris: "But he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain"

Stephen Burnett, who considered Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to be "notorious liars," related what he heard Martin Harris say:

After we were done speaking M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of [h]im but should have let it passed as it was....I am well satisfied for myself that if the witnesses whose names are attached to the Book of Mormon never saw the plates as Martin admits that there can be nothing brought to prove that any such thing ever existed for it is said on the 171 page of the book of covenants that the three should testify that they had seen the plates even as J S Jr & if they saw them spiritually or in vision with their eyes shut—J S Jr never saw them any other way & if so the plates were only visionary...[70]


Martin Harris: "I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold, and I knew that Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead

Joel Tiffany interviewed Martin Harris in 1859. Martin said the following during the time that Joseph was translating the plates, but before he became a witness:

While at Mr. Smith's I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold, and I knew that Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead.[71]


Martin Harris (1873-1874): "While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates"

Anthony Metcalf interviewed Martin Harris in the 1873 or 1874 timeframe. Note that Metcalf considered Joseph Smith a "pretended prophet" and was therefore relating Harris's claims from a skeptical perspective:

Following is the history as related to me, including all his connections with Joseph Smith, the pretended prophet and the founder of the Mormon church: He told me all about the translating of the Book of Mormon, and said he had give $5,000 towards its publication. He said "I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state. I wrote a great deal of the Book of Mormon myself, as Joseph Smith translated or spelled the words out in English. Sometimes the plates would be on a table in the room in which Smith did the translating, covered over with cloth. I was told by Joseph Smith that God would strike him dead if he attempted to look at them, and I believed it. When the time came for the three witnesses to see the plates, Joseph Smith, myself, David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, went into the woods to pray. When they had all engaged in prayer, they failed at that time to see the plates or the angel who should have been on hand to exhibit them. They all believed it was because I was not good enough, or, in other words, not sufficiently sanctified. I withdrew. As soon as I had gone away, the three others saw the angel and the plates. In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates." [72]


George Mantle (1888): Martin Harris said "Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that...he translated that book by the power of God"

When in England to preach for an LDS splinter group, Martin Harris was ejected from a meeting of Latter-day Saints. He left, and began to loudly criticize the Church leadership. Critics of Mormonism arrived quickly.

George Mantle to Marietta Walker, 26 December 1888:

When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism; but when asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes; and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: "Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God."[73]


Edward Stevenson (1870): Martin Harris said "my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel"

Elder Edward Stevenson reported in 1870:

On one occasion several of his old acquaintances made an effort to get him tipsy by treating him to some wine. When they thought he was in a good mood for talk they put the question very carefully to him, ‘Well, now, Martin, we want you to be frank and candid with us in regard to this story of your seeing an angel and the golden plates of the Book of Mormon that are so much talked about. We have always taken you to be an honest good farmer and neighbor of ours but could not believe that you did see an angel. Now, Martin, do you really believe that you did see an angel, when you were awake?’ ‘No,’ said Martin, ‘I do not believe it.’ The crowd were delighted, but soon a different feeling prevailed, as Martin true to his trust, said, ‘Gentlemen, what I have said is true, from the fact that my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel, and it was the brightness of day.” [74]


The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)" (1/18/2011 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The following year Harris affirmed that "No man heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon [or] the administration of the angel that showed me the plates."

Author's sources: *Letter of Martin Harris, Sr., to Hanna B. Emerson, January 1871, Smithfield, Utah Territory, Saints' Herald 22 (15 October 1875):630, in EMD 2: 338. See also Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 118.

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Citations

  • Walker, Ronald W., (1986), Martin Harris: Mormonism's Early Convert off-site .

Further reading

Y
  1. Wikipedia article "Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints)," off-site, citations quoted in Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (2014)
  2. Roger Nicholson, "Wikipedia’s Deconstruction of Martin Harris," FairMormon Blog (23 January 2013).
  3. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 96–98. ISBN 0877478465.
  4. “Several families . . .,” Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, New York) (27 May 1831). off-site
  5. Pomeroy Tucker, Palmyra Courier (24 May 1872); cited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 104. ISBN 0877478465.
  6. Tanner and Tanner, "Roper Attacks Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?" 14.
  7. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 167–170. ISBN 0877478465.
  8. Matthew Roper, "Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 164–193. wiki; citing Letter of George A. Smith to Josiah Fleming, 30 March 1838, Kirtland, Ohio.
  9. George Godfrey, “Testimony of Martin Harris,” from an unpublished manuscript copy in the possession of his daughter, Florence (Godfrey) Munson of Fielding, Utah; quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 65–66. Also cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 117. ISBN 0877478465.
  10. Statement of William M. Glenn to O. E. Fischbacher, May 30, 1943, Cardston, Alberta, Canada, cited in Deseret News, Oct. 2, 1943. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 116. ISBN 0877478465.
  11. "Martin Harris Interview with William Harrison Homer, 1869," Early Mormon Documents 2:313-314.
  12. Martin Harris, interview with Joel Tiffany, 1859, in "Mormonism—No. II," Tiffanys Monthly (August 1859): 163-70; in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:309.
  13. Millennial Star 44:87; quotation from Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A New Prophet and a New Scripture: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (January 1988), 6. off-site
  14. Andrew Jenson, Historical Record (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson, 1888), 5:433.
  15. See Adams, 475–476.
  16. Partridge, 439
  17. Hill, Rooker, & Wimmer, 433–434.
  18. Adams, 474–475; see also Hill, Rooker, & Wimmer, 434–435.
  19. Hill, Rooker, & Wimmer 435; citing C.C. Huntington, "A History of Banking and Currency in Ohio Before the Civil War," Ohio Historical Quarterly 24 (1915): 366-367.
  20. Adams, 454.
  21. Marvin S. Hill, Keith C. Rooker and Larry T. Wimmer, "The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 4 (Summer 1977), 449. PDF link
  22. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 251. (Affidavits examined)
  23. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 41.
  24. John A. Clark, Episcopal Recorder 18 (1840):94.
  25. Tucker, Mormonism, 52.
  26. Testimony of Martin Harris, dictated to Edward Stevenson, Sept. 4, 1870, Stevenson microfilm collection, after journal, vol. 32. Researchers are greatly indebted to descendant Joseph Grant Stevenson for locating and publishing this document in the Stevenson Family History (Provo, Utah: Stevenson Publishing Co., 1955), 1:163-64. Appreciation also goes to Max Parkin for reminding me of the item, no. 1043 in Davis Bitton, Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), p. 146. My text follows my rereading of the microfilm. Martin's view of being baptized right after the first two elders probably refers to events of April 6, 1830.
  27. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 169-170. ISBN 0877478465.
  28. Daniel C. Peterson, "Defending the Faith: The story behind James Strang and his sect," Deseret News (9 June 2011)
  29. The Saints’ Herald 35 (December 29, 1888): 831–32. See also Wikipedia article "Voree plates".
  30. 30.0 30.1 Letter from Chauncy Loomis to Joseph Smith III, “Experience on Beaver Island with James J. Strang,” Saint’s Herald, 10 Nov. 1888, 718-719.
  31. Daniel C. Peterson, "Defending the Faith: The story behind James Strang and his sect," Deseret News (9 June 2011)
  32. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 111. ISBN 0877478465.
  33. Phineas Young et al. to "Beloved Brethren" who in the last of the letter are defined as "our brethren, the Twelve," Dec. 31, 1844, Kirtland, Ohio.
  34. Martin Harris, Sr., to H. Emerson, Jan., 1871, Smithfield, Utah, cit. True Latter Day Saints' Herald 22 (1875: 630.
  35. Edward Bunker, Autobiography, manuscript, p. 3.
  36. Jeremiah Cooper to E. Robinson, Sept. 3, 1845, cit. Messenger and Advocate of the Church of Christ 1 (1845): 319.
  37. Thomas Colburn to Elder Snow, May 2, 1855, cit. St. Louis Luminary, May 5, 1855.
  38. Martin remarried Caroline Young before his estrangement from the Church and had children in the years 1838, 1842, 1845, 1849, 1854, and 1856.
  39. For a survey of the rise and fall of the 1843 "Divine Roll," see Charles Nordhoff, Communistic Societies of the United States (New York, 1874), pp. 245-50.
  40. James Willard Bay, Journal, Nov. 23, 1850, p. 27.
  41. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 96-99. (Affidavits examined)
  42. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 169-170. ISBN 0877478465.
  43. Martin Harris . . .,” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 39 (15 March 1831).
  44. Letter of Elder Edward Stevenson to the Millennial Star Vol. 48, 367-389. (1886) quoted in William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 57–58.
  45. NeedAuthor, Times and Seasons 3 no. 21 (1 September 1842), 898. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  46. Autobiography of Alma L. Jensen, 1932.
  47. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, in letter dated 29 November 1829, quoted in Corenlius C. Blatchly, "THE NEW BIBLE, written on plates of Gold or Brass," Gospel Luminary 2/49 (10 Dec. 1829): 194. (emphasis added)
  48. John H. Gilbert, "Memorandum," 8 September 1892, Early Mormon Documents, 2: 548.
  49. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 71 in "Pomeroy Tucker Account, 1867," Early Mormon Documents, 3: 122.
  50. Martin Harris Interview with Ole A. Jensen, July 1875 in Ole A. Jensen, "Testimony of Martin Harris (ONe of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon)," undated (c. 1918), original in private possession, photocopies at Utah State Historical Society, LDS Church Archives, and Special Collections of BYU's Harold B. Lee Library; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:375.
  51. “Martin Harris interviews with John A. Clark, 1827 & 1828,” Early Mormon Documents 2:270.
  52. Nathan Tanner Jr. Journal, 13 April 1886.
  53. Letter from Stephen Burnett to “Br. Johnson,” April 15, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letter Book, p. 2
  54. Statement of William M. Glenn to O. E. Fischbacher, May 30, 1943, Cardston, Alberta, Canada, cited in Deseret News, Oct. 2, 1943. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 116. ISBN 0877478465.
  55. Robert Aveson, "Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon," Deseret News, Apr. 2, 1927. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 116. ISBN 0877478465.
  56. Letter of George Mantle to Marietta Walker, Dec. 26, 1888, Saint Catherine, Mo., cited in Autumn Leaves 2 (1889):141. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 112-113. ISBN 0877478465.
  57. "Martin Harris Interview with Anthony Metcalf, Circa 1873-1874," in Vogel (ed.) Early Mormon Documents 2:346-347.
  58. Statement of David B. Dille, Sept. 15, 1853, deposited in Millennial Star Office, cited in Millennial Star 21 (1859):545. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 113. ISBN 0877478465. Cited in "Martin Harris Interview with David B. Dille, 1853," Early Mormon Documents 2:297.
  59. Martin Harris . . .,” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 39 (15 March 1831).
  60. Letter from George A. Smith to Josiah Fleming, 30 March 1838, LDS Church Archives.
  61. Joseph Fielding, Millennial Star 2 [1841]: 52.
  62. Statement of William M. Glenn to O. E. Fischbacher, May 30, 1943, Cardston, Alberta, Canada, cited in Deseret News, Oct. 2, 1943. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 116. ISBN 0877478465.
  63. Robert Aveson, "Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon," Deseret News, Apr. 2, 1927. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 116. ISBN 0877478465.
  64. Letter of George Mantle to Marietta Walker, Dec. 26, 1888, Saint Catherine, Mo., cited in Autumn Leaves 2 (1889):141. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 112-113. ISBN 0877478465.
  65. Statement of David B. Dille, Sept. 15, 1853, deposited in Millennial Star Office, cited in Millennial Star 21 (1859):545. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 113. ISBN 0877478465. Cited in "Martin Harris Interview with David B. Dille, 1853," Early Mormon Documents 2:297.
  66. Letter of Martin Harris, Sr., to Hanna B. Emerson, Smithfield, Utah Territory, in Early Mormon Documents, 2: 338.
  67. “Martin Harris interviews with John A. Clark, 1827 & 1828,” Early Mormon Documents 2:270. Also cited in "Origin and History of the Mormonites," The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, September to December 1850.
  68. Martin Harris, quoted in "Statement of Comfort Elizabeth Godfrey Flinders to N. B. Lundwall," September 2, 1943, Ogden, Utah, cited in Assorted Gems of Priceless Value. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 116. ISBN 0877478465.
  69. "Eber D. Howe on Martin Harris, 1834," Early Mormon Documents 2:285.
  70. Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson, 15 April 1838, Joseph Smith Letterbook (1837-43), 2:64-66, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Archives. Cited in "Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson, 15 April 1838," Early Mormon Documents 2:292-293.
  71. "Martin Harris Interview with Joel Tiffany, 1859," Early Mormon Documents 2:309.
  72. "Martin Harris Interview with Anthony Metcalf, Circa 1873-1874," in Vogel (ed.) Early Mormon Documents 2:346-347.
  73. George Mantle to Marietta Walker, 26 December 1888, Saint Catherine, Missouri, cited in Autumn Leaves 2 (1889): 141. Cited in Matthew Roper, "Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 164–193. wiki
  74. Letter of Elder Edward Stevenson to the Millennial Star Vol. 48, 367-389. (1886) quoted in William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 57–58.